Overcome stuttering during public speaking
With help from a speech language therapist and some enthusiasm, you can overcome this anxiety
For most people, talking in front of a large audience can be a great challenge. And those who stutter commonly choose to avoid any situations in which they might stutter.
They might start feeling uncomfortable in front of an audience or even end up using entirely different words than the ones they initially planned on using to hide their stuttering.
With tomorrow being International Stuttering Awareness Day, here is why people who stutter should not feel like public speaking is out of the question.
There are three main types of stuttering, and people who stutter often have a family history of stuttering.
This usually occurs in children when they are still learning language skills and developing speaking abilities. This is the most common type of stuttering between ages two and six.
People can develop a stutter after a brain injury like a stroke or as a result of head trauma.
Research suggests that the ventral premotor cortex of the brain is a critical area responsible for the integration of sensory and motor information involved with speaking.
This is rare and can be caused by emotional trauma. It is thought to originate in the region of the brain (temporal lobe) that governs reasoning and thinking.
Stuttering is known to be exacerbated when people attempt public speaking.
It can also vary from setting to setting.
Someone who has a stutter might be dysfluent while speaking, but when they take on a different persona in front of an audience, the stutter disappears.
It is often thought people who stutter do not communicate as well as others, but that is untrue.
Communication is much more than just words. It is about eye contact, body language, your tone and the way you emphasise key points.
It is important to remember that communication is by no means limited to your voice.
You can also expand the possibilities of communication by including things like videos, audio aids and PowerPoint slides.
People who stutter commonly choose to work with a speech language therapist, who can help them practise ways in which they can manage their stuttering.
As anxiety is the main issue in public speaking, you may also need to look at ways to overcome this specific obstacle.
You need to get to a place where you can bond with your audience to ensure that you and your listeners feel at ease.
Effective strategies include talking about something you are passionate about.
Enthusiasm might be just what you need to break through your fear. When you present a topic, try to be passionate and knowledgeable above all else.
Another idea is to tell your audience a little about your stuttering. Some people may not understand what stuttering is. This way, they should feel more comfortable with it and you will not need to feel pressured to hide it.
Practise in the location where you will be giving the presentation beforehand.
By doing this, you will have the opportunity to make sure everything is in working order and be better prepared.
You can check the microphone and decide on things like where to keep your notes or where to stand during your presentation.
If you role-play some worst-case scenarios, you will be better equipped to handle any situation that may arise. If you fear that your stutter will get in your way, try to stutter on purpose during role-playing and decide what you plan to do in that situation.
The writer is a speech language pathologist at The Speech Practice. She has over 10 years of professional experience including work in acute and rehabilitation hospitals and special schools in Australia and Singapore.